Location: South America
The flight from Santiago to Auckland wasn't as bad as expected. But after arriving and finding this place was fully of annoying Kiwi's we booked our flight out and headed back to Brisbane - Trip completed.
Location: Santiago, Chile
After a few more relaxing days in Galapagos, we had to wave goodbye to the marine iguanas and head back up to altitude, Quito. We only had to spend a night in Quito so we caught up with Allison and Kurt and saw the sights in the old town. Not really as scary as everyone says it is, but that may have something to do with all the heavily armed security guards at every hotel, restaurant etc.
After Quito we did a very long flight to Buenos Airies. As we had a few days to spare we decided to add another country to the list, so we hid the Australian emblem on the passport, adopted a British accent and headed into Uruguay. We waited nervously at the border control reminding ourselves not to mention fotbol (soccer), but after a little wait they let us through.
We spent 3 days enjoying the old town of Colonia, which is Heritage listed, wandering the cobbled streets, taking in the sun on the local beach and drinking Sangria watching the sun set - it´s a hard life being a backpacker but someone has to do it!
After getting a little more colour (so we are no longer pasty white) we headed back to Buenos Airies for a day shopping spree before our flight to Santiago where we are now.
Tonight we leave South America for a very long flight to New Zealand!
Location: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
We decided that time was running short and that we were in need of some warmer weather, so we headed north from Cusco to Guayaquil in Equador. While waiting for our connecting flight in Lima we ran into Allison and Kurt, a Canadian couple we had met in Southern Chile and they were to become our travelling buddies for the next 2 weeks.
The plan was to get flights and, if possible, a cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Guayaquil was a really lovely place. There are iguanas in the main park, a really lovely boardwalk along the water and we were the only tourists in the whole place so everyone keep coming up and welcoming us to the town (either that or they were swearing at us as our Spanish has not progressed to swear words yet!). We also managed to get an 8 day cruise aboard the Daphne, so Galapagos here we come!
Tuesday morning we headed out to Galapagos and spent the afternoon admiring the giant tortoises, walking a lava tube and generally taking photos of anything that moved.
Later that afternoon we boarded the boat and set off for our first island. The boat was fantastic and we were so glad we paid a bit extra for it.
We spent the next 7 days walking and snorkelling on a number of islands in the Galapagos. It was so fantastic. We lost count of the number of times we had to step over animals or be taking a photo of something only to look down and have an iguana or a bird or a sea lion right at your feet. When you swim, the fish you see are so diverse and the sea lions are always swimming around you. Words cannot describe this place so we hope the photos do it some justice. All we can say is everyone must make an effort to come here.
After the cruise we decided to spend a few more days in the sun and have been staying in Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz enjoying the beach (good surf and while you are sitting there marine iguanas are walking past you).
Location: Guayaguil, Ecuador
Due to time restrictions (and the Peruvian people) we have flown north to Guayaguil in Ecuador. Tomorrow we fly to Galapagos where we will be relaxing for 8 days while cruising around 12 of the Islands. As internet has not reached these far flung places, you will all have to sit back and wait till the cruise is over before the next update. Sorry if this effects your daily schedule.
Location: Machu Picchu, Peru
Admin: Hope you all had a great Australia day. Ours was spent admiring the views of Machu Picchu and then on a train back to Cusco with a bunch of kiwis singing "you all live in a convict colony" - we threw them into the ravine.
As we had a day to spare in Cusco, we headed on an afternoon city tour to take in some Inca ruins around the town. They were really impressive and we have put some photos on for you all to enjoy.
That evening, we had out pre trekking meeting with our tour guide (Henry) and the other 3 Inca Trail trekkers Emma (English), Rupert (Also English) and Megan (Canadian). After the meeting we headed back through the throng of hasslers (you want to eat here, you want finger puppet, you want post card, you bad person) and had an early night.
The next morning we rose at 5am to get the bus to the start of the Inca trail. After the compulsory stop for walking sticks, ponchos and coca lollies (neither of us can handle the coca leaves) we started the 49km trek.
Thinking we were both pretty fit after the other hikes on the trip we set a cracking pace (this was a fatal error and would haunt Kel later in the walk and also had Rob wishing he had hired a porter rather than carry everything for both of us) as we raced to our first camp site perched in a beautiful valley at 3600m. Other than a couple of Inca ruins, this part of the trip was spent admiring the surrounding 6000m snow capped peaks.
The next morning we awoke to an amazing blue sky and freshly cooked pancakes (the food provided on the trip was fantastic) and set off for what would be our hardest day of the trek. Within 30min of setting off, dark clouds had come from nowhere and the heavens opened as we reached the first and highest pass - Dead Womens Pass (named after the rather familiar similarity between the mountain and a females chest). After struggling to get oxygen in the high altitude (4200m) we were all glad of the downhill section to lunch. The rest of the day was spent under ponchos climbing the second pass (easy at 3998m) and sleeping well at the second campsite overlooking an Inca ruin and the glaciers.
The third day is the easy day, but we still had 4 hours of downhill to do before arriving at the last campsite and BEER!!!! That day we had 1100m of downhill (mainly steps) and by the time we reached the campsite we were glad of the walking sticks. We spent the night helping the kiwis empty the beer fridge and went to bed early in preparation for the 4am wake up call.
The final day started with stars in the sky and a good mood for all the trekkers - hopefully we were going to get good weather for Machu Picchu. We started walking at 5:30 and after an hour reached the Sun Gate for the first view of Machu Picchu. It was totally amazing. The sun was shining, there was blue sky and there were no people walking the ruins - the perfect photo shot. The rest of the day was spent walking the ruins (absolutely huge and how they built it at this high is still a wonder) and hiking up the mountain behind the ruins for the birds eye view (see photos). After the knees finally packed it in, we got the train back to Cusco and are now having a day of rest.
Location: Cusco, Peru
Admin 1: Strike one of the previous entries, we were not robbed. After spending 2 days cursing the Brazilian traveller we thought had taken the credit card and going about cancelling the card, we found it and the money hidden extremely well in Kel´s bag. It appears that after enjoying too many Cuba Libres (rum and cokes), Rob had hidden it and then forgotten about it.
Admin 2: We know it is a little early but we will be on the Inca trail on the actual day. Hope you all have a great Australia Day and for those of you in London, enjoy the Walkabout!
From La Paz we headed further west into Peru via Lake Titicaca (highest navigatable lake in the world at over 3800m). We decided to spend a few nights in Puno and take a day trip to the floating reed islands of Uros. These islands were originally built to allow the local people to float into the middle of the lake to escape the neighbouring tribes. Today, many people still live on these islands but many are aimed at tourists!
From Puno we continued onto Cusco where we had the pleasure of coming up against the local town strike (see previous diary entry). This was quite exciting, but meant that we missed one of the Inca ruins we were meant to see as a result. After passing the strike we headed off to Raqchi (Temple of Wiracocha God). This temple was 100m long, 26m wide and 14m high. The temple was designed to withstand earthquakes as the base was on gravel and the top of the temple walls were build with mud bricks that allowed it to move.
After the temple we visited Andahuaylillas which is home to the Sixtine Chapel of America due to the amount of artwork inside it. The inside still has carvings that are covered in solid gold! They confiscated our chisel before we could use it!
We are currently in Cusco enjoying a few days of rest and hassling (by the locals) before starting the Inca Trail on the 23rd January.
Location: Puno, Peru
Well, Peru has been really nice to us so far. We have been here for 2 days now, and in that time we have been;
- sold fake bus tickets
- given counterfit notes
- for the first time in our lives been robbed
- and today we had the pleasure of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with about 200 angry protesters putting up a road block. Apparently they weren't happy with their Mayor so they took it out on the lucky commuters by putting bolders and smashed glass on the road, and burning fires in the centre lane. Then they had a disagreement amongst themselves (after we had been there for about an hour) and started going fist for fist - since we had front row seats it was great to watch!!!
Location: Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
The day after Robs ride we headed off from La Paz to Rurrenabaque in the Amazon Basin for 5 days of sightseeing in the jungle and the Pampas. Because it is wet season at the moment, our 6:45am flight was not able to leave (something about needing to wait for the grass runway to dry) until 2:00pm. As we finally raced out onto the tarmac to get on our flight, we were very surprised to see a 12 seater plane at our gate. The flight to Rurrenabaque was interesting as it was completely in cloud, the co-pilot had an oxygen mask on for the whole flight, when it started to rain, water poured in the front door and the pilot found the runway via a GPS system attached to the steering column.
We arrived safe and sound and the next day headed up the raging Rio Beni to the jungle camp to catch up with Matt and Nicky (a South Africa couple). On the way up we picked up a local Bolivian family who showed us true Bolivian conservation efforts by throwing the babies dirty disposable nappy into the river!
That afternoon we headed off on a lovely jungle walk to see the macaws nests. After climbing up a steep hill, we stood on the edge of a very steep cliff and watched the macaws fly around us it was absolutely amazing. That night we went on a night walk. Our guide Niko told us to stop about half way into the walk and turn our flash lights off. He then said Ogga booga noods JAGUAR goodla giodfid and lay on the ground making wounded animal sounds! Quite scary but no jaguar came so we headed on.
The following day we headed back to town, spotting a few families of capybaras on the way. It was on this boat trip that Kel make a comment about how lucky we had all been with the rain considering it was wet season. The rain gods seemed to take offence to this and no sooner were the words out of her mouth then the heavens opened and it poured for the rest of the day.
The next day was spent in the pampas (wet lands). In the morning it poured, but we all did a local rain dance and by the afternoon the rain gods seemed appeased and the sky cleared. We headed off in the boat and saw amazing wildlife including howler monkeys, chinchilla monkeys, cappuccino monkeys, crocodiles, caiman, pink dolphins (we also got to swim with a group of 10) and a huge number of birds. That night we sat at the local bar, drinking cervaza and watching the sun set over the wetlands. The following day we rose at sunrise and went toucan spotting. We didnt manage to see any but when we got back to the camp 2 flew into the trees around us.
That afternoon was piranha fishing time. We thought it would be on the river but after an hour 4x4 driving on the muddiest road, we arrived at a roadside lake and threw in a line. We all had plenty of bites but only 1 piranha was caught so we headed back into town.
When we arrived back in Rurrenabaque we found out that there had been no flights in or out for the past 5 days and there was a large number of stranded people. As the town wasnt that bad and they had half price cocktails from 7-9pm, we didnt mind being stranded for a few days. Our tour company was really fantastic and kept coming to the hotel every 2 hours to give us all an update on flight times and at 3:00pm they ran around town looking for us as they had managed to get 2 of us on the first flight out of town. They eventually found us relaxing by the pool sucking back some Cerveza's (beer). We won the coin toss and are now back in La Paz, hoping that Nicky and Matt get out today.
Location: Death Road, Bolivia
Given the title of being the 'Worlds most dangerous road' for the most fatalities annually it surely lived up to its name. Unfortunately Kel had eaten a dodgy Bolivian food and therefore had to give it a miss - Rob's pretty sure she faked the sickness.
Starting early in La Paz a group of 11 of us caught a bus another 1000m up (to 4600m) to where we would plummet 3400m in just over 64km on Mountain Bikes. Thats not the dangerous part though. It's the 800m vertical cliff straight off the one lane (two lane traffic though) dirt road with no barriers that makes it dangerous.
Within 5 minutes of the journey we had already passed another group which had a hospital case splattered over the road - with more to come.
As we plummeted from the alpine heights down into the Jungle forests Rob had one of his two main near misses. When a Kamikaze mini-bus driver wanted to get past Rob obliged only for his breaks to lock up as he headed for an eroded ledge. Luckily for the sake of the attached photos he did manage to stop with the front type resting cautiously on the lip and a very much shaken Rob looking down into the Amazon Basin below.
Other than the three other wild Aussies on our tour who all managed to get superficial injuries, there were luckily no major injuries in the Group.
Once we reached the bottom and had devoured our buffet lunch the worse was to come. Hoping we weren't going to join the many car/bus bodies at the bottom of the ravine, we headed back up the death road in a packed mini-van with less tread than my 20 year old Dunlop KT26's. Just to make it even more exciting the clouds set in and most of the journey back up was done in visibility of less than 100m (see attached photo).
Although it is extremely dangerous (and the number of crosses you see keep reminding you of that - over 100 more each year) you can go at your own pace and the scenery really in mind blowing. From the numerous waterfalls that you get to ride behind to the amazing ruggered mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.